The ancient Roman calendar had only ten months and started the year on 1 March, which is still reflected in the names of some months which derive from Latin: September (seventh), October (eighth), November (ninth), December (tenth). Around 713 BC the months of January and February were added to the year, traditionally by the second king, Numa Pompilius, along with the leap month Intercalaris. The year used in dates was the consular year, which began on the day when consuls first entered office — fixed by law at 15 March in 222 BC, but this event was moved to 1 January in 153 BC. In 45 BC, Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, dropping Intercalaris; however, 1 January continued to be the first day of the new year.
In the Middle Ages in Europe a number of significant feast days in the ecclesiastical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church came to be used as the beginning of the Julian year:
- In Christmas Style dating the new year started on 25 December. This was used in Germany and England until the thirteenth century, and in Spain from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century.
- In Annunciation Style dating the new year started on 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation. This was used in many parts of Europe in the Middle Ages, and was the style introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in AD 525. Annunciation Style continued to be used in the Kingdom of Great Britain until January 1, 1752, except Scotland which changed to Circumcision Style dating on 1 January 1600. The rest of Great Britain changed to Circumcision Style on the 1 January preceding the conversion in Great Britain from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar on 3/14 September 1752. The UK tax year still starts on 6 April which is 25 March + 12 days, eleven for the conversion from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar plus a dropped leap day in 1900.
- In Easter Style dating, the new year started on Easter Saturday (or sometimes on Good Friday). This was used in France from the eleventh to the sixteenth century. A disadvantage of this system was that because Easter was a movable feast the same date could occur twice in a year; the two occurrences were distinguished as “before Easter” and “after Easter”.
- In Circumcision Style dating, the new year started on 1 January, the Feast of the Circumcision (of Jesus).
Whatever be the history, let us celebrate. Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2007